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City Picks Up Tab for Browns Noser
When you're dealing with a $283 million-plus construction project, what's a loose hundred grand either way? Evidently it's no small matter to the Browns, who sweet-talked the White administration into absorbing the $110,000 salary of Dave Hamill, the team's watchdog on the new stadium. Hamill has been at the lakefront site since September 1997, representing the Cleveland Browns Trust (and by extension, the NFL). As part of the agreement struck September 8, 1998--the day credit card hustler Al Lerner was awarded the franchise--the city agreed to pick up the cost of renewing Hamill's contract. "As we have briefly discussed over the telephone, the city has agreed to fund a construction representative designated by the team owner for the stadium project," administration attorney Fred Nance confirmed in a subsequent letter to Browns President Carmen Policy. But instead of paying Hamill's salary directly, the city eventually settled on a bookkeeping maneuver. Lerner had agreed in September to pony up $9 million for a larger scoreboard, luxury suites, and cost overruns. The city kept Hamill's salary off its books by simply offering to knock $110,000 off Lerner's bill. So what exactly is Hamill doing to warrant this incredible feat of financial legerdemain? The Browns will not discuss personnel matters, and Hamill did not return calls to his construction trailer. Even well-informed City Council President Jay Westbrook professes to be in the dark. "My understanding is that there's another person on-site acting as the Browns rep," he says. Chances are it isn't David Modell.

If smoking dope makes you stupid and slow, how come the organizers of the Million Marijuana March are geared up and ready to go, while City Hall has been stuck in a purple haze? At issue are the permits for the May 1 demonstration, a highly ambitious affair featuring a rally on Public Square, march to the Justice Center (where protesters will encircle the building with a human chain to show support for jailed cannabis users), and concluding festivities in the park at West 3rd and Lakeside. "The bureaucracy is stalling us," insists John Hartman, the not-paranoid president of the Northcoast chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Not so, says Department of Parks, Recreation, and Properties Special Events Manager Judy Zamlen-Spotts, who fears a mega-event. "John says he expects a thousand people, but at similar events around the country, they've been getting 10,000-15,000 people," she says. "That poses special safety concerns, which is what's holding this up." Whatever the numbers, Hartman isn't just blowing smoke. "If we have a permit, we can do one type of march," he promises. "If we don't have a permit--well, we'll do the same type of march. We'll just have to worry about being busted."

Dodging tourist traffic isn't normally a problem on the beautiful North Coast. But townies would be well-advised to watch out for crazed, ravenous tourists this summer, who are sure to be red-hot about the bonehead list of Cleveland's best restaurants in the April Bon Appetit: The Blue Point Grille, Fat Cats, Harry Corvairs, Jeso, Lola, Tutto a Posto, Watermark, and Cena Copa. Regretfully, Cena Copa has been closed since January. And chef-of-record Matthew Cheselka is long gone from Fat Cats. Maybe it should be Boner Appetit.

Boners and hot tips to edge@clevescene.com.

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